Born Reba Jeanette Smith on February 1, 1928 in Corbin, Kentucky. She was the fourth child of Walter B. Smith, a railroad engineer by his wife, Alma, a housewife. Debbie Dean recorded as Penny Smith and Debbie Stevens at various labels before arriving at Motown in the early 1960s, and was Motown's first white female solo recording artist, signed by Berry Gordy.
Unlike most of the early Motown recording artists, she was neither an R&B or blues singer. Her first single at Motown was "Don't Let Him Shop Around," (1961) an answer record to the Miracles #1 R&B and #2 pop hit, "Shop Around." Dean's perky vocals with a noticeable southern twang barely reached Billboard's Hot 100 charts with the song.
Subsequent singles were even less successful and at the age of 34 (significantly older than most Motown acts at the time), she was dropped from the label. Several years later, after a meeting with Motown producer/writer Deke Richards, Dean rejoined the Motown roster as a writer/singer, and collaborated with Richards (born Dennis Lussier) on songs for the Supremes, Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Martha and the Vandellas, Edwin Starr, and other Motown artists. She later co-wrote and recorded "Why Am I Lovin' You" on Motown's V.I.P. label. The song has since become a Northern Soul favourite.
- "Don't Let Him Shop Around" b/w "A New Girl" (M 1007)
- "Itsy Bity Pity Love" b/w "But I'm Afraid" (M 1014)
- "Everybody's Talkin' About My Baby" b/w "I Cried All Night" (M 1025)
- "Why Am I Lovin' You" b/w "Stay My Love" (V.I.P. 25044)
- "1930 United States Census [database on-line]". United States: The Generations Network. 1930-04-08. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
- Andrew Hamilton. "Debbie Dean Biography". United States: AllMusic. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
- "Social Security Death Index [database on-line]". United States: The Generations Network. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
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